Kolkata Knight Riders have probably been the best buyers at the auction table over the past few years. They have gone one step ahead of Rajasthan Royals who were the first ones to give team balance utmost importance and squeeze in utility players in the tightest of budgets and make the most of their resources. KKR have managed to do that on a long-term basis. KKR were one of the first teams to bring data analytics in the game to re-build their squad in 2010. A move that paid high dividends and two titles after two underwhelming seasons at the beginning of the IPL.
KKR left no stone unturned in the preparation of this season of the IPL, they read the changed nature of the surface at the Eden Gardens beautifully and decided to stock up their pace bowling armoury with great swing bowlers by picking Chris Woakes and Trent Boult at reasonably low prices at around 4-5 crores each. Nathan Coulter-Nile proved to be the buy of the season for KKR as he chipped in with great bowling performances throughout the season at a price of 3.5 crores, a third of Tymal Mill’s price tag. Colin de Grandhomme was another good buy who might’ve been bought as like for like replacement for Andre Russell but he unfortunately couldn’t create much impact as he had huge shoes to fill.
They had a settled batting line up and the team would’ve been buoyed by the batting exploits of Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine in the BBL season that was concluded just a month before the auction and thus, decided against spending money unnecessarily on batsmen. They decided to stick with their tried and tested Indian batsmen like Gambhir, Uthappa, Pathan, Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav.
All in all, it looked a well-rounded team with all bases covered only waiting for the players to execute their roles. Everything was going according to plan too for most part of the league stage as they won 7 out of their first nine matches looking primed for a top two finish. They defeated Gujarat Lions by 10 wickets in their opening game chasing 184 runs inside 15 overs. They defended 131 runs in the most astonishing manner by bowling out RCB for just 49 runs. They were having run chases for breakfast and Narine and Lynn shared a century partnership in the powerplay overs on a dry Chinnaswamy wicket. Everything seemed to be going right for the team.
However, spineless batting performances during the business end of the tournament meant they just won one match from the last five matches in the group stage. They batted like they wanted to chase down totals in 15 overs not putting a price on their wickets to run out of gas eventually against Mumbai and Punjab in the final two matches of the league stage.
The nonchalant batting style of power hitting displayed by their newly appointed opening combination of Narine and Lynn seemed to have rubbed all the way down to the end of the batting order. It looks good when it comes off but when it does not, the lesser said about it the better it is. Gambhir kept on asking for better batting performances from him team in the post match interviews but was not able to lead from the front not being score fluently in the latter part of the tournament himself. It was the same story against Mumbai Indians in the 2nd qualifier as they were skittled out for a paltry 107. Lack of application from the batsmen proved to be their downfall in what looked like a title winning season.